In light of the attacks on Paris on November 13th, 2015, the nations of the world were marked to come together in Le Bourget, Paris only a few weeks later to discuss the conference objective of a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change. On December 5th, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) had come to their final agreements on how to implement laws and policies to hold the global average short of a 2 degree Celsius increase, unfortunately many nations see climate change as a risk of aggravating conflicts between nations.
Climate change itself is not the issue however, it just multiplies the threat. A change in the climate exacerbates poverty and water scarcity, it compounds food and nutrition insecurity and it makes it even harder for poor households to secure their rights. As we’ve learned in class, grievances are one of the main reasons as to why people are up in arms against their respective country. Poverty, repression, discrimination, and exclusion are all factors that play into whether or not a country enters a civil war.
With climate change adding onto the stresses of life that these countries already endure, radicalization is much more likely. For example, the recurrent drought in Syria that began in 2010 has been awarded the key aggravating factor that led to the civil war that has destroyed the country from within. The drought, which broke record levels, was brought on by global warming and pushed social unrest to a breaking point causing the uprising in 2011 which has led to a major civil war with international involvement.
In a recent article released by the World Economic Forum, the risk assessment put “interstate conflict with regional consequences” at the top of the list of the number one global risks in terms of likelihood. This specific threat has been out of the forefront for many years, and based on a poll of over 900 experts, 2015 “stands out as a year when geopolitical risks return to the fore”. We have not needed to worry much about the probability and risk of major conflict between states, unfortunately, the means of producing such an attack has drastically expanded.
Fellow geopolitical threats such as; state collapse or crisis, failure of national governance, terrorist attacks and weapons of mass destruction dominated the World Economic Forums risk assessment with their ever increasing likelihood. The risk of interstate conflict was followed by extreme weather events, failure of national governance systems, state collapse or crisis and high structural unemployment or underemployment.
John Drzik—President of Global Risk and Specialties at Marsh, and Chairman of Marsh & McLennan Companies’ Global Risk Center
We have seen an influx in intrastate conflict in the recent years, and in order to understand interstate conflict we must first take a look at intrastate conflict. Focusing on the realist argument, we can see that states are inherently self-interested where survival is the principle goal of every state. Realist theory looks at states as rationalist actors acting in such a way to maximize their likelihood of continuing to exist. Intrastate conflict has a tendency of influencing interstate conflict, for example the conflicts in Afghanistan or the Democratic Republic of Congo have implemented themselves into their neighboring states, affecting the regions political and economic stability. Seeing threats like these pop up in various places around the world; Ukraine, China, African states, we can clearly see that many of these intrastate conflicts have begun to bubble up and further affect the areas surrounding them. Which can slowly lead us into an era of heated conflicts between states. Therefore, world leaders should focus a majority of energy on creating a norm of cooperation between states rather than engaging in conflict.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a refugee is defined as an individual who is “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”. Granting asylum to those who so need it has been a convention that has been practiced for so many years. Unfortunately, the aiding of refugees comes with its costs.
The presence of refugees within a country affect the economic, environmental, social, and the political hardships that are already existing within the country. We have seen previous conflict stem from the mere presence of having multiple social groups within one geographical location. If we take a look at the Sunni and Shia denominations of Islam for example, violence has plagued these two groups for many years, stemming from the migration of the Shia Iranians into Iraq in the 16th century.
In addition to the preexisting problems that the host country may have, an influx of refugees may continue to strengthen those problems. For example, many host countries implement programs and services for the incoming refugees, and this has been seen to have a negative effect on the surrounding communities because the citizens do not have the same opportunities to receive these free services such as healthcare and education.
Fortunately, with the problems that countries encounter when taking in refugees, the refugees also provide certain benefits. With these new people coming into a different country, they bring with them a different culture, creating a ‘melting pot’ of knowledge and skills, potentially aiding the society itself.